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The Sin of Despair
My Mike Glenn
The problem is that we have become numb to it all. By the time our children are 18, they’ve witnessed thousands of murders across a variety of entertainment platforms including television, movies, and video games. The evening news is a list of murders and crimes accompanied by interviews with victims and witnesses and the obligatory politician promising to get tough on crime. The newspaper articles are no better. There are stories of road rage incidents that explode into gunfire, neighbors arguing about a barking dog that becomes a shootout, people killed, others wounded, houses broken into, and cars stolen in the middle of the day.
We used to shake our heads and wonder out loud what our world was coming to. Now we don’t even do that. We’re numb. Overwhelmed by bad news that bombs us like artillery shells, we walk around like soldiers suffering from battle fatigue.
Sure, we try to do something about it. We go to a city council meeting. We put up signs in our yard. We may even call our politicians and demand action, but we don’t look for anything to change. We don’t think anything CAN change. We certainly don’t think we can change anything.
Now we’re beginning to doubt if God Himself can do anything.
Maybe God used to do miracles, but He doesn't anymore. Little by little, we give up. It’s never a big moment. We never stand up and shake our fists at heaven. We just pray a little less until, finally, we don't pray at all. We think that maybe things will change until we finally decide nothing is going to change – not now, not ever. We lose our faith. We lose our hope. We don’t fight against the darkness and we keep backing up from evil. We just keep our heads down and try to make it through one more day.
The world’s never been this bad, you hear people say. But it has. Our world has been this bad. In fact, our world has been worse. This is why we need Maundy Thursday. This is why we need Good Friday. We need to sit in the darkness and hear our prayers echo into the emptiness. We need to remember that there was a moment when the world grabbed for God and God didn’t resist. When our anger and rage lost all control and we put God on a cross and demanded that He pay for all of our crimes.
When He died, there was silence. We were through with God. We put Him in a tomb and rolled a stone over the entrance. We live in an awful, cruel, and brutal world where people die for no reason and we measure our suffering in years.
Not even God can fix this, we say.
And that is the sin of despair. When we think that things are so bad that not even God can help.
It’s the disciples leaving Calvary…
The women preparing to complete the funeral…
It’s Cleopas and his friend deciding to go to Emmaus…
It’s Thomas deciding not to be in the upper room. Why? Jesus wasn’t coming…
And it’s us. Coming home from six funerals, thinking about how our world will never be the same again. Seems like it’s Good Friday all the time.
This weekend isn’t the first time we thought God had left town. It’s not the first time we cried out and God didn’t answer and we assumed He must no longer care.
The disciples were wrong then.
We’re wrong now.
We mistake mercy for weakness.
We mistake grace for apathy.
We mistake silence for inaction.
It’s why we need Easter, a day that reminds us that not even death can keep God in Christ from coming to His children. The tomb is empty and Jesus is waiting for us to catch up to Him. He is making all things new.
I know these words are hard to hear. I know, especially now in Nashville, that no one wants to hear about Easter and Jesus coming again. Death is too real and our suffering too great. We are driven to do something. Let’s pass some laws. Let’s blame somebody. We want to exhaust our anger in action to fix things.
Here’s the bad news: we can’t pass enough laws to make a broken person whole again. There aren’t enough social programs to fix the woundedness in our cities. Only Jesus can do that. I know, you’re expecting a preacher to say something like this. Yet, I don’t say this because of my vocation. I say this because I believe it.
I’ve lived long enough to figure out that the problems we’re dealing with today were solutions to yesterday’s problems. We don’t have a good track record of fixing anything.
We need Easter more than ever. We need to believe again. We need to stare into an empty tomb and shout out, “He’s not here.”
No, He’s not. He’s not through with us. He hasn’t given up on or abandoned us. Don’t assume that because we can’t see Him working that He’s not working at all. This story isn’t over.
Maundy Thursday isn’t the end. Neither is Good Friday. Easter isn’t either.
Easter is the beginning.
Jesus hasn’t given up. Neither should we.